I am working on a project to research the kinds of questions that students ask when viewing geoscience data visualizations. Earth and Mind readers have seen a snippet of this work here. In justifying this work, we talk about how asking questions is an essential practice of science, how learning to ask questions is a necessary step towards becoming a curiosity-driven self-educator and life-long learner, and how seeking answers to self-generated questions is more powerfully engaging than seeking answers to questions provided by a book or teacher.
I really believe all this about the power of asking questions. I know all this, from both experience and theory. And yet earlier this year, I was astonished to observe the power that the right question had to compel and drive my own curiosity on a topic that had previously found distinctly un-interesting. More
The New York Times ran a piece recently about how voting turnout differs among undergraduates by field of study. In the last presidential election (2012), education majors had the highest voting rate at 55%. STEM majors had low turnout, with engineers having the lowest voting rate at 35%. Of course I wondered about students majoring in Earth and Environmental Sciences. I tracked down some further information about the study, and found that we aren't included as a category. We'll have to settle for data about physical science majors, who are in the bottom five of the 20 majors reported, with 40% voting turnout. More
I've been thinking a lot recently about Practice 1 of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS): Asking Questions (and Defining Problems). As far as I can tell, "Asking Questions" is the least researched of the NGSS practices, and also the least-discussed in terms of practioners' wisdom or pedagogical content knowledge. There seems to be a lot of literature on the questions that teachers ask students, but much less on question that students ask.
I find this question interesting from several perspectives:
I was allotted 10 minutes–and one ppt slide– to convey the essence of what our community has learned in 20 years or more of plugging away at this challenge. With some help from friends, I put together a set of suggestions, which appears below in slightly edited form. I'd be interested to hear what others think have been our lessons learned. More
C.P. Snow famously wrote about "The Two Cultures"—that great divide between the sciences and humanities. Snow argued that the inability of scientists/engineers and scholars of the arts/humanities to communicate was a major barrier to addressing the grand challenges that face humanity. Scientists/engineers may be derided on one hand because we do not have instant recall of the "canon" of great works of literature, have not read Foucault or Feyerabend, or are not up to date with post-modern literary theory. On the other hand, how many non-scientists understand the fundamentals of DNA and PCR used as evidence in their favorite CSI television show, understand evolution and natural selection as related to the antibiotics they use, or understand the tenets of plate tectonics and the potential impacts on personal and societal safety (Will Durant: Civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice.)? More